Oxford University in fresh ‘Rhodes must fall’ row after college renames ‘slaver’ library but refuses to remove a statue
An Oxford College has defied campaigners’ efforts to remove a statue of a former slave owner from its main library.
Christopher Codrington, an 18th century Barbados-born colonial governor, bequeathed £10,000 to the library of All Souls College on his death in 1710 and the library was subsequently named after him.
In 2020 the College reviewed its benefactor’s links to slavery in the Caribbean in the wake of Black Lives Matter protests, finding his wealth derived from “activities in the West Indies”.
The college’s governing body ruled that the space he funded would no longer be known as “the Codrington Library”, but stopped short of campaigners’ efforts to remove his large marble statue within the library.
Instead they chose to instal a memorial plaque in tribute to those who worked on his plantations. It is now known as The Library at All Souls College.
The move infuriated campaign group Common Ground, who said: “Physically, this statue cannot be made neutral: it is positioned such that onlookers stand at his stone feet, its pose is one of heroism and prestige.”
Student groups also argued the plaque failed to "sanitise the harm of continuing to elevate this slave-owner".
Codrington was governor of the Leeward Islands in the Caribbean, and held plantations in his native Barbados. He was educated at Oxford before his official duties and was made a fellow of All Soul’s, which last year reviewed his contribution to the college. Despite pressure to remove the statue of Codrington, the college promised greater context.
A statement its governing body said: “The College will investigate further forms of memorialisation and contextualisation within the library, which will draw attention to the presence of enslaved people on the Codrington plantations, and will express the College’s abhorrence of slavery.”
The statue still remains in place and All Soul’s have provided no outline of any further action.
The controversy follows a long-running campaign at the university to have the image of Cecil Rhodes removed from the exterior of Oriel College due to his colonial activities in Africa.